curated by Dietikon Projektraum
burble, gurgle, splash (settling at the river) is an exhibition on watery imaginaries and river politics. Focusing on the water systems that nourish our bodies and cities, we start from stories around the Limmat in order to address the planetary crisis of wounded waters. The question of how to think-with water was central in the exhibition planning, helping us understand the connection between representation and politics. Just like the fish, we are not in water but with water. This dependency means our bodies are implicated in what we conceptualize. If we acknowledge that the liquids that penetrate us feed multiple living organisms and travel through complex infrastructures a new set of ethical questions appears. This kind of sensibility is part of the watery imaginaries the artists in the exhibition propose.
The exhibition starts with two stories around the Limmat. On the left window we display archive material from the Limmatkorrektion, a geoengineering program started in the late 19th century that changed the course of the river in order to control its waters, avoid regular floods and canalize the stream to produce electricity in times of industrial expansion. On the right window, we chose images from the Limmat Renaturierung, a project initiated in the 90’s which continues until today, where the main idea is to recover and protect river ecologies destroyed by human interference. Although initially, one could think of these projects as countercurrent (the second seems to repair what the first destroyed) our proposal is that at their core they have the similar ideas of mastery and control symptomatic of a general attitude towards bodies of water. In both, the complex water ecologies are worked through the logic of resource management and intense terraforming, a logic that seems to undermine the importance of animal and vegetable agencies in the making of the hydrocommons. What will the flow of waters be a hundred years from now?
The works by Paula König suggest a couple of ambiguities. In Ein Versuch eine Mauer zu bauen we could refer to the clear opposition between the image represented and the material on which this image appears. The weight of a stone wall is set in a thin, almost transparent, material hung as a photo studio backdrop, linking to the production of images as carriers of apparent histories. By rebuilding on the ruins of a decayed wall — an architectural structure to enable agriculture in the steep geography of the river valley — König refers to the archeological memory of the river as a site of dependency and control. For Viele Versuche einen Fluss zu malen, the postcard pile before the curtain depicts a series of watercolor drawings that represent the movement of a river. The title of the work plays with the idea of trial and failure that reveals the limitations of such ventures. The postcards point to the action of representation and its tools. This poetic gesture lied to us in the redundancy of drawing a liquid substance with watercolor paint, but also in the distribution of the images: the postcards leaving the exhibition space replicating the transcorporeal flows of the water bodies we share.
The work Humeurs takes us on a sonic stroll along the Limmat’s soundscape. Here, the hopes of emerging into an idyllic natural site are disturbed by the presence of surrounding infrastructures, construction sites, factories, and hydroelectric power plants that mark the water’s sonic edge. The bodies of water become inaudible and their ephemeral presence only tangible when in contact with other entities. We listen to water either as a subtle silence or as a strong white noise that absorbs all other sounds. The work is also an intimate narrative as Mélia Roger collected sounds in places inscribed to her memory — excerpts from these memories are registered on postcards that refer to the places where they were lived. The four speakers correspond to each of the organic fluids according to the ancient Humoral Theory. In this way, we can understand the title Humeurs — meaning moods — as the register of the personal relationship between the artist and the river.
Marie Griesmar created the paintings behind the windows inspired by video footage taken by scuba divers in the river Seine. These paintings create a spatial and metaphorical separation between the exhibition space and the street. The idea was to accentuate the embrace of a river bed by referring to the effect of the water surface they produce: their movement, transparency, and color changing constantly depending on the position of the observer, the time of the day, and weather. Together with the paintings, the artist is showing several stones spread through the room. These were taken from different ruins around Dietikon, immersed in the Reppisch river for one month, and brought to the exhibition space. Some of these stones are material witnesses to stories of urbanization — like those belonging to the former building for the urban development authority. By placing these architectural traces inside water, the artist expects to observe processes of erosion and the growth of small organisms. We imagined these ruins as experimental models for forms of co-existence between humans and nonhumans.
LISTENING WALK with Mélia Roger (8th May 2021)
Impressions from the Listening Walk along the rivers of Dietikon with Mélia Roger.
Kunstbulletin 6/2021 by Gianna Rovere
Limmattaler Zeitung 15/04/2021
Special thanks and acknowledgements:
Kultur - Stadt Dietikon
Muthesius Kunsthochschule Kiel